- Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Shia LaBeouf
- Summary: A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is writer/director Dito Montiel's candid debut capturing his youth in the mid-1980s in the toughest neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. Exuding the rawness and authenticity of such classic urban dramas as "Kids," "Mean Streets," "Do the Right Thing" and "Saturday Night Fever," the film is based on Montiel's memoir of the same name. (First Look Pictures)… Expand
- Director: Dito Montiel
- Genre(s): Drama, Crime
- More Details and Credits »
This is an exceptionally assured debut, and Montiel exhibits rare care with editing and sound design. His real forte, though, is casting, to which a brief scene featuring Downey and the incandescent Rosario Dawson powerfully attests.
The framing sequences with Downey and the climactic scenes between father and son are a mess. Downey, at 41, is too old to be playing a character who can be no more than 31 or 32, and 50-year-old Eric Roberts is an even greater distraction as Montiel's imprisoned friend Antonio.
I suspect this guy can make a good movie if he learns the right lessons; he's made about half of one here. But the praise heaped upon A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is way too much, way too soon.
Jul 2, 2013A time before Downey Jr. was Iron Man, before Shia LaBeouf became the annoying kid in Transformers and before Channing Tatum was a sizeable household name, they were brought together for a biopic of Dito Montiel and his early years in New York, now a man who has eluded his past by becoming quite a successful writer, the film jumps between two timelines as we witness Dito and his early days in 1980s Astoria, New York, played by LaBeouf, and the present day, now played by Downey Jr.
The most stand out part of the earlier days in Dito's story is that of his damaged friend Antonio, played by Tatum, who gives a very heartfelt performance as the bullying and egotistical teen that is also beaten viciously by his father.
We occasionally see older Dito as he appears to be thinking about these pivotal moments in his past, guilt, heartache but seemingly joy flashes across his face, as his reluctance to come back to his childhood bearings start to show. In his past we see how determined he became to try and get out of his neighbourhood after meeting a new Scottish classmate who fills Dito's head with dreams of California.
Recognising Your Saints is often portrayed as a coming of age drama, deal with the issues that most teens face, identity crisis. But with Dito, his heightening sense of fear for his safety, his father's apparent love for Antonio who isn't is son and of course the pressures of leaving this all behind.
The unique editing of the film along with its very candid shots and reality show-esque dialogue have created a very emotionally riveting story of a man's real life, While all the cast involved are fantastically at the top of their game, my personal admiration goes to Channing Tatum, playing a man he bottles up every feeling and emotion he has in his big and bulging physique, who takes no prisoners, is awkward and hostile around new faces but ultimately looks out for his friends, perhaps too much.
Shia LaBeouf and Robert Downey Jr combine various characteristics and moving performances to bring the director and protagonist Dito Montiel to the screen, LaBeouf squashing his childhood baby face and Downey Jr continuing to prove himself as one of the finest actors of his generation. Also mention for the parents Monty and Flori, played with powerful performances from Chazz Palminteri and Dianne West.
A moving, beautifully shot and outstanding script have equaled to and enjoyable but heartbreaking tale of a boy with a messy life but with the same hope as many in his position, to leave his past behind and not let people hold him down.… Expand
Jan 25, 2013Dito Montiel's A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints takes the style and approach similar to Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale and Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, which both overshadow this film for their grandscale look on issues and the exploration into certain relationships and how they grow and decimate over time. All three films possess common attributes; all three take place in a part of New York, they are directed by first-timers, they are stories that the men hold close to their hearts, all utilize the storytelling method of narration or breaking the fourth wall in some way, and they focus on a large group of characters all with something to say. Whether it's worth hearing or not is up to you.
A Bronx Tale effected me in a way that totally came out of left field. By delivering its brutal honesty with cold, authentic realism was audacious and showcasing three exquisite talents (one of them, Chazz Palminteri, present here), it delivered a coming of age drama, deeper and more reliant on values than any one I've previously seen. Do the Right Thing was a crisp, lively drama relying on racial tensions and impending chaos that would ensue from enduring a brutally hot day in Brooklyn. Spike Lee brilliantly concocted tension through character development and human conversation, and almost implying, throughout the course of the entire film, that no character did "the right thing." But whatever your definition of the right thing was, you could disagree with me.
Montiel is more interested with telling his story more than tacking on a fancy moral or showing any deep, subversive element in particular, which is perfectly fine with me. His close-to-home story is buoyant on its own, relying on strong performances from charismatic leads and is elevated by bright, humid, and mercilessly seamy cinematography. Montiel himself is our protagonist, played in his later years by Robert Downey Jr., a successful writer, yet absent family-man, Dito's mother calls him one day, twenty years after leaving behind his home in Queens, to return home to convince his father (Chazz Palminteri) to go to the hospital after falling gravely ill. Upon returning home, he sees Queens isn't much different, still crime-infested and relatively unprotected from the destructive youth and the passive adults, but notices that his longtime friends' ambitions of being lawless and as juvenile as possible have surged into adulthood.
This story is spliced with flashbacks from 1986, the year when Dito (Shia LeBeouf) abandoned everything he erected in Queens, when Dito was only concerned about hanging with his friends Antonio (Channing Tatum), Laurie (Melonie Diaz), and Mike (Martin Compston), causing trouble and wreaking havoc. The film casually follows the youth's events and run-ins with relationships, sexual encounters, conversations, and troubled instances, and often showing their home-lifes as the least of their concerns.
Palminteri gives a wonderful performance here, confidently lax, yet remarkably genuine and subdued, often providing his son Dito with father-like guidance that often gets ignored when the going gets tough. When Dito is seen in present time, he is unforgiven by his father who views his move to leave home not noble and commendable, like some would, but rather shameful and deviant. He views his son's return home as no more than a cop out move, somewhat more shameful than him leaving. His offer to make amends feels forced and trite and he ain't buying it.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints consistently maintains a gritty atmosphere and always feels alive and raw, even when it's at its calmest times. The performances, mainly from LeBeouf, Tatum, Downey Jr., Palminteri, and Rosario Dawson, who could've benefited from more screentime, use the story's difficult themes of family relations and devotions to their favor, and never does much of this lack genuine feeling, thanks to Mantiel manning the camera and working the pen on this project. To call this film "solid" would be sort of an understatement, yet to call this "groundbreaking" or even "wonderful" would be a bit much. I'll go with "meaningful:" seems to meet them halfway.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Shia LaBeouf, Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz, Chazz Palminteri, Martin Compston, Eric Roberts, Channing Tatum, Dianne Wiest. Directed by: Dito Montiel.… Expand
Aug 28, 2014Beyond the fact that Robert Downey Jr. is awesome in this one, the whole movie was very much worth the watch.
The characters were never really introduced - not in a traditional way. Things keps spiraling down between past and present, diving in deeper to the events and people in the film, which in return created a sharp, painful, agonizing trip.
So much bad, so little good, and so like life.… Expand